What’s the Difference Between a Tornado Watch and a Tornado Warning?

May 18, 2013  |    |  Weather Radios

The difference between a tornado warning and tornado watch is more than just the colors that represent them in the corner of a television screen.  Knowing when the possibility of a tornado exists and when one is imminent will help keep you and your family safer.

Tornado watches are issued when weather conditions are ripe for developing tornadoes, but one has not been spotted. Certain atmospheric conditions are favorable for strong storm development, which may produce tornadoes. Stay tuned to local news and weather sources for the latest information and be sure your weather alert radio is nearby.

When a tornado or severe thunderstorm watch is issued, take a few minutes  to make sure your emergency preparedness kit is stocked and ready. It’s also a good time to review your family’s emergency plan and prepare your shelter area with protective coverings such as blankets, mattresses and helmets in case a warning is issued for your location.

Tornado warnings are issued when a tornado is occurring or about to occur. When Doppler radar indicates a warning, strong rotation is happening within the storm and a tornado may touch down at any moment. Warnings may also be issued when funnel clouds are spotted or eyewitnesses report a tornado on the ground.

Remember: All warnings should be taken seriously.  Even when the warning is issued based on Doppler radar data, a tornado might already be on the ground. You should take cover immediately whenever a tornado warning is issued for your area and remain in your safe spot until the warning is officially lifted.

Where that safe place is depends on where you are at the time the tornado warning is issued. When you’re in a public building, head toward the designated storm shelter. There may or may not be signs posted so be prepared to find it without help. If you’re at home, take cover in the basement away from walls and windows or an interior room on the lowest floor away from windows and doors. Exit cars, trailers or mobile homes and find the nearest sturdy building. If you can’t find or get to a sturdy shelter, lie down in a low ditch and protect your head as best as you can.

Invest in a battery backup powered weather alert radio for your home or business in case the power goes out or a tornado watch or warning is issued while you’re asleep. If you’re away from home, take a portable NOAA weather alert radio and locate the best shelter near you in case a warning is issued.